War of the Worlds – 2.1: “The Second Wave”

Fascist aliens invade Earth in the original V (1983-1985).

Let me get this straight. The vastly superior alien invasion series V gets canceled after only 19 episodes and this crap-fest gets picked up for a second season? Who sold their soul to Satan to make that happen? Whatever.

The terrifying Martian invaders destroy everything in their path in the 1953 classic, The War of the Worlds, which this show does not do justice.

We open with Harrison and Suzanne standing on the terrace looking up at the night sky. They wax philosophical for a bit about the aliens and whatnot. And then Harrison spots a falling star. And another. And another. They’re coming down in a deluge – close. One of them lands just over the next hill. Horrified, Harrison realizes it’s a full-on invasion. The swan-shaped machines rise out of their pits, their heat rays spewing death everywhere they go. First New York falls. Then London. Then Moscow. City after city after city is wiped out by the merciless onslaught. Harrison and his beleaguered team flee their headquarters just as an alien war machine blasts it to smithereens. The military is powerless to stop the invasion, and this time Earth’s bacteria is useless against the aliens. Within days, humanity is brought to its knees. Harrison and company take refuge in a subway tunnel. As the aliens patrol the devastated countryside picking up stragglers for extermination, the ragged and demoralized team begins making plans. The first step will be to find any survivors they can and bring them back to the tunnel. Cowering in sewers and subway systems, Harrison and his people prepare to strike back. Somehow, though they don’t yet know how, humanity will rise from the ashes of their ruined civilization and take back their world.

An illustration from the 1906 edition of The War of the Worlds. I wonder what H.G. Wells would think of this show.

That’s what I wanted to see. What I hoped I would see. What I knew I wouldn’t see. Here’s what we got:

An alien planet blows up. A dot flies to Earth and makes it… cloudy. Or something. New aliens have arrived on Earth. They’re called the Morthren and they decide to execute the Mortaxians for being completely incompetent. Can’t say I blame them, because they’re not wrong. What I can’t figure is why the Mortaxians just obediently step into the disintegration machine. Well, whatever. The Mortaxians never were that bright. The Leader of the Morthren communes with a hologram of their leader, the Big Giant Head (a huge one-eyed tick), and receives instructions.

Harrison goes to an S&M bar to meet up with someone – we’re never told who. He gets into trouble and is about to get his ass kicked when some military guys randomly show up and bail him out. But they turn out to be aliens here to kidnap him. Fortunately some dude named Kincaid shows up and saves him. They go back to HQ where we learn that Ironhorse knows Kincaid and doesn’t like him.

Ironhorse goes to investigate a building where the aliens are supposedly hiding and gets captured. The aliens clone him and send the clone to wipe out Team Blackwood. Blackwood and Kincaid get worried and go to rescue Ironhorse. They find him and and escape together.

Meanwhile the Ironhorse clone kills Norton (!) and plants charges to blow up the building. He takes Suzanne’s daughter as a hostage. Harrison shows up with Kincaid and Ironhorse and they catch the clone in the act of abducting Suzanne’s daughter. Ironhorse concludes based on nothing that he and the clone are linked and kills himself, thereby killing the clone. The team escapes the building just as it blows up.

The boring aliens from War of the Worlds – season 2.
You don’t scare me. Work on it.

This episode was… confusing. Who the hell are these new aliens? What is their relationship to the Mortaxians? Why do the Mortaxians allow themselves to be executed? What’s going on with the clouds? Why are Ironhorse and the clone linked? The aliens say that the cloning process would kill Ironhorse. But if the clone dies when Ironhorse dies, how is that useful? There are a lot of new elements introduced in this episode. I don’t have a problem with that. The show needed a new direction. But they handled it very poorly.

Overall, however, I will admit this is an improvement over season one. For starters, they shot it on higher-quality video, so the picture is a lot sharper. It’s lit better and the production design is more inspired. The cheese factor is greatly reduced and the overall tone is darker, more serious. That could go either way. The stupendously awful train-wreck that was season one offered a lot in the way of unintentional laughs, which actually made it fun in a way. If season two lacks sufficient camp to make it funny and takes itself too seriously, it could wind up just being really dull. But this episode at least held my attention, despite being really confusing.

Bottom line, though… this still has nothing to do with the 1953 movie or the novel it was based on.

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